Hump Day: The Elder

Appropriately dealing with the various office characters found in our daily professional lives is an important part of succeeding as a young professional. Here on Notable we have profiled many of these typical office personalities (Debbie Downer, The Pecker). One character that has yet to be discussed, and which tends to come up often in our conversations about corporate culture, is “The Elder.”

The clash of corporate characters
As young professionals, we hope to be perceived by colleagues and superiors as educated, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. Unfortunately, due to many changes and transitions in the office setting over the past decade, some of us may have developed reputations of being spoiled, entitled, and even disrespectful. This issue comes as a result of working with an older generation of people who at another time may have done the job very differently. Work systems, technologies, products, policies, etc. are constantly changing, and adapting to new ways of working can pose a challenge for older officemates. Our ability as YPs to come in and master a technologically-based task right off the hop can understandably cause frustration and resentment for The Elder colleague. Being aware that this may be happening in your office can allow you to quickly address it and work to resolve it, leaving older colleagues feeling appreciated and us YPs being perceived fairly.  

The technical glitch
It’s not hard to recognize the ways in which recent computer technologies have changed the working world. In jobs where people once worked with people, there now exist computers doing many of those tasks. It is not uncommon for older workers to complain about the lack of social interaction that now occurs on the job as compared to years ago. As new entrants into the workforce, most YPs do not know their job without computers. We are used to communicating via email and text almost exclusively. Basic computer skills are second nature to us. We know how to solve most technical problems on our own, and we are able to learn new technologies quickly. This is often not the case for The Elder. Being cognizant of the stress that older colleagues face in this age of transition can help us in doing less eye rolling and more tolerating.

What you can do
– While you may prefer to do your chatting in the textual world, The Elder is much more used to walking on over and asking about your day or about your work. Don’t huff and puff, but embrace it instead. Do yourself and your coworker a favour by taking those few minutes to actually speak face to face. Interacting with people in a world where we do so little of it is healthy and can actually aid in our productivity and happiness.

– Instead of snickering under your breath at The Elder struggling to learn a new computer system or trying to program their iPod, lend a hand and offer your expertise. Making an effort to help can create a bridge over the age gap and aid in building relationships. And don’t forget, they can likely teach you a thing or two, too. 

– Show respect for your older colleagues by attending retirement and birthday parties. Not only will they appreciate you taking the time to care, but it will also allow you to get to know more people in your office, making other office events more comfortable and enjoyable.

While working on keeping a patient and open mind regarding The Elder, also remember the fact that yes, one day, you too will be old. Imagine working for a company for 30 years only to have a new YP come in and think they can do the job better. Help fight the cliché profile of the “entitled young professional” by appreciating The Elder and the work that they do.